Photo: British Antarctic Survey
The ocean naturally absorbs carbon dioxide from the air. And since man-made carbon emissions are rising because of burning fossil fuels, the world’s waters are taking in a lot more carbon dioxide.This influx of carbon lowers the pH of sea water, making it more acidic.
The change in ocean chemistry is particularly bad for sea animals with shells, like oysters, clams, and snails — the acid gnaws away at their hard protective shelter.
British researchers recently found that the shells of marine snails, known as pteropods, living in the Antarctic seas were being dissolved by the corrosive ocean waters.
The negative effects of ocean acidification doesn’t stop at these little sea creatures. By threatening animals at the bottom of the food chain, it also mucks things up for those at the top — like us.
The Los Angeles Times’ David Horsey explains the implications of ocean acidification for humans and other fish:
Researchers are finding that, in several locales, the shells of tiny creatures called pteropods are being thinned and broken down by acidity. People do not eat pteropods, but plenty of fish do. They supply 50% of the diet of pink salmon, and people do eat salmon. It is not hard to understand the biology: If pteropods disappear, salmon and other fish get scarce.
Ocean acidification has also upset coral reefs. Half of the Great Barrier Reef has died in the last 30 years as result of climate change and more acidic waters.
Meanwhile, the annual UN climate change summit began in Qatar on Monday. The two-week conference will discuss ways to cut carbon emissions.
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